Texas police say a woman purported to be the wife of a man accused of shooting five neighbours dead after they complained about him firing rounds late at night has also been taken into custody.
Francisco Oropeza, 38, was arrested on Tuesday, four days after the shooting late on Friday (28 April) in the town of Cleveland, about 45 miles north of Houston, according to Montgomery County Sheriff Rand Henderson. A nine-year-old boy was among those fatally shot, with an AR-style rifle.
All of the victims were from Honduras. One of the neighbours - Wilson Garcia - who survived the shooting, said everyone in the house tried to hide, shielding themselves and their children after Oropeza walked up to the home and began firing, first killing Garcia's wife at the front door.
The victims have been identified as Diana Velazquez Alvarado, 21; Julisa Molina Rivera, 31; Jose Jonathan Casarez, 18; Sonia Argentina Guzman, 25; and Daniel Enrique Laso, nine.
Oropeza was arrested not far from the site of the shooting, Sheriff Henderson said. Acting on a tip, officers said they found the suspect hiding underneath a pile of laundry, in a closet.
On Wednesday (3 May), Montgomery County Sheriff Rand Henderson said his wife, Divimara Lamar Nava, 53, had also been taken into custody in connection with the Friday night shooting. Although Mr Henderson identified Nava as Oropeza’s wife, jail records list her as not being legally married. The two share a home address, according to court records.
She had previously denied knowledge of Oropeza’s whereabouts, Mr Henderson said, but authorities believe she hid him in the home near Conroe where he was arrested on Tuesday. Nava was arrested early on Wednesday and was being held in the Montgomery County jail, on a felony charge of hindering the apprehension or prosecution of a known felon, according to online jail records.
Police had used drones and scent-tracking dogs during the wide search for Oropeza, which included combing a heavily wooded forest a few miles from the scene.
San Jacinto County Sheriff Greg Capers said the suspect had allegedly fled the scene after the attack. He said his deputies had been called to the suspect’s house at least one other time previously over shooting rounds in his yard.
Oropeza will be charged with five counts of murder. His bond has been set at US$5 million (£4 million). “They can rest easy now, because he is behind bars,” Sheriff Capers said of the families of the victims. “He will live out his life behind bars for killing those five.”
The arrest happened near Conroe, ending what had become a widening dragnet that had grown to more than 250 people from multiple jurisdictions and had seen US$80,000 (£64,000) in reward money offered.
As recently as Tuesday morning, the FBI had said that Oropeza “could be anywhere”, underlining how investigators for days struggled to get a sense of his whereabouts and candidly acknowledged they had no leads.
The tip that finally ended the chase came at 5.15pm, and a little more than an hour later, Oropeza was in custody, said FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Jimmy Paul. The alleged shooter is a Mexican national who has been deported four times between 2009 and 2016, according to US immigration officials.